An upstart fire-and-rescue squad in this tiny Frederick County community has three ambulances housed in a former filling station in the center of town and more than 200 members, 40 percent of them black and a third of them women.
Instead of the traditional ladies' auxiliary, the Buckeystown company has a "people's auxiliary" that raises money by butchering hogs and sponsoring community events. Twenty-five men and women have just completed a University of Maryland emergency medical training course and are prepared for ambulance work.
But they're not allowed to respond to calls, and if the long-established Carroll Manor Fire company in nearby Adamstown and the Frederick County Volunteer Firemen's Association have their way, the Buckeystown squad will disappear.
"As far as I'm concerned, they don't exist," said Robert Mumma, president of the county firefighters association, which, by law, has a major role in approving any new company of volunteers.
The Buckeystown volunteers say they are being discriminated against because they welcome blacks and women and because some members are relative newcomers to the area.
Their opponents reject the charges of racism and sexism. They argue the area doesnT need another company; the Buckeystown contingent would just be a waste of taxpayers' money.
The battle over Buckeystown escalated last week when Frederick County authorities took back the truck, sirens and lights they had given the new squad.
The new volunteers had lavished many hours on refurbishing the old four-wheel-drive brush truck, overhauling the engine, painting the body bright green and outfitting it with lights and signs.
But on Tuesday, squad member Wilbur Ford Jr. said, he was directed to drive the truck with a sheriff's escort and under threat of arrest to the county's garage in Frederick City.
"The county commissioners are the Ayatollah Khomeinis of Frederick County, and they're holding our brush truck hostage," said Ford. The land surveyor moved from Frederick to Buckeystown 14 years ago, but some people here say he is still a newcomer.
There also were allegations that the competing Carroll Manor company had played a role in the truck's return -- a role denied by Carroll Manor.
Both sides acknowledge underlying personality clashes and friction between old-timers and the newcomers who have dramatically changed the profile of this 200-year-old hamlet in the foothills of the Catoctin mountain range.
The Buckeystown volunteers are a mixture of longtime residents and newcomers like Bernadette Morris, a dentist's assistant who moved here from Montgomery County two years ago with her husband, a teacher.
"You just can't walk into a new community and take over," said Dorothy Dudrow, president of the Buckeystown Homemakers Club, whose husband, a farmer, has family roots here.
"You've got to prove yourself," she said. "People here don't want change. They like it the way it is."
Dorothy and Lester Dudrow don't belong to either company of volunteers, but they were among 200 residents who signed petitions several months ago opposing the new fire-and-rescue squad.
Ford and two other men who helped start the new squad used to be members of Carroll Manor Fire Company. They were expelled last February when they began organizing the new squad in Buckeystown, 3 1/2 miles away.
The rules of the firefighters association say no squad may operate within four miles of an existing company unless the first approves.
"We wanted a fire company where minorities' and women's rights are not infringed upon," said Lord Nickens, a 74-year-old Buckeystown volunteer and president of the Frederick chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Nickens is black, as is the rescue squad's current president, Clyde Weedon.
Until 1969, the Adamstown squad's bylaws specifically barred blacks. They still bar women. Since the Buckeystown group organized, the Adamstown company has admitted two blacks to its roster of 135 members. Leaders say they plan to propose a bylaw change, dropping the male only requirement soon.
"It's something that should have been done and hasn't been done," said L. Eugene Johnson, an Adamstown insurance salesman who heads the Carroll Manor company.
Johnson said the company, started in 1953, is made up primarily of "people born and raised here." The entire dispute is "a sore subject" that he said he would rather not discuss.
"I have one of the finest groups of women in this county and in this state," Johnson said of the company's women's auxilliary, which has 135 members who have helped raise $59,000 for new equipment and a new building by running the largest food tent at the Frederick County Fair and sponsoring other traditional fund-raising events.
"I just wish things could be settled between us," said a member of the Carroll Manor Ladies Auxiliary who requested anonymity, "because they all worked together at one time."
Mumma, the firefighters association president, said the 27 ambulance calls and eight fire calls within a one-mile radius of Buckeystown last year don't justify operation of another squad in that area.
Asked about the sexism and racism issues, he said, "We have a lot of companies where females are riding the pumpers and manning the ambulances. The last three or four years, I'd say it's just been a complete turnover. Everything is open to females, blacks, whatever you are."
Mumma's own company at Rocky Ridge in northern Frederick County has no women members. "We're damn lucky to get enough men," he said, "but it's open to anybody who wants to join."
The president of the County Commission said the brush truck was ordered returned after the county government learned the Buckeystown group lacked official sanction to operate. "If the truck was iin an accident, the county could have been liable," said Mary G. Williams, the chief commissioner.
There's a personality squabble," she added. "We're not getting involved in that."
The Buckeystown volunteers say they are determined to gain official recognition and are trying to figure out how to get the truck back in time to use it with a snow plow to clear farm lanes for ambulances.
"Frankly, it blows me away in this day and age this is going on," said Grace Porter, a Texan whose Army husband's assignment to nearby Fort Detrick brought them here in January. Both are members of the Buckeystown company.
"I thought we were moving into a very cosmopolitan area," Porter said, "but there's a definite 'old boy network' here. We're gonna fight them tooth and nail."